Serviceman death driver ‘lacked experience’ says coroner

10:38 27 June 2014

Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths was killed in Afghanistan.

Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths was killed in Afghanistan.

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An Exmouth serviceman who was crushed to death by a vehicle in Afghanistan died in part due to ‘a lack of driver and commander training and experience’, a coroner has said.

The inquest into the death of RAF senior aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths, aged 20, in July 2010, concluded yesterday at County Hall.

The inquest had heard how the serviceman died when a six tonne Jackal patrol vehicle rolled over him as he used a torch to help try and mend a fuel leak.

Dr Elizabeth Earland, coroner for Devon, concluded the inquest with a narrative verdict.

She said the Jackal was being driven by an unqualified driver, Corporal Wiliam Wortley, who parked up on a sloping lay by on Highway One a few kilometres from Camp Bastion.

She said a ‘defective parking brake’ was put on and SAC Griffiths lay underneath the Jackal to repair the fuel line with a comrade.

She said the engine was turned off to avoid the risk of an explosion of the leaking diesel fuel but the Jackal rolled backwards, crushing SAC Griffiths’ chest and abdomen.

The coroner said: “The danger of the resulting brake failure was not appreciated due to a lack of driver and commander training and experience.”

But she praised the ‘courage and frankness’ of the RAF witnesses who were at the scene of the incident when SAC Griffiths was killed.

And she praised their bravery in the hostile environment of Afghanistan.

The coroner also said she would be writing to the Ministry of Defence to ‘review their training methods for commanders, drivers and maintenance’.

Following the inquest, the family of SAC Griffiths called on the RAF to launch a fresh inquiry into the incident.

In a statement, his father Nick said: “We have learned a number of failures relating to the errors made while Kinikki was out on patrol, of vehicles being driven by people who were not trained to do so, orders being breached, and that the vehicle was driven incorrectly with the hand brake on.

“In light of all we have heard, we call upon the RAF to re-open the investigations into what happened to our son so that those who may have been responsible are properly held to account.

“Our son, our brother, our hero - forever in our hearts.”

Earlier Group Captain Scott Miller told the two-day inquest that Jackals were no longer used in Afghanistan after they were taken out of service.

He said: “The enemy overmatched the protection of the Jackal and the continuing IED threat.”

He also said the RAF had stopped ‘turning a blind eye’ to breaking rules and regulations and had implemented other measures since SAC Griffiths was killed.

Earlier Cpl Wortley, who did not hold a driving licence, admitted being the driver of the Jackal when it was on a three-vehicle patrol looking for lost grenade explosive and night vision goggles.

He was the commander of the vehicle and in charge of the heavy machine guns – but was not qualified to drive the Jackal.

The inquest heard that ‘vehicle reliability’ in Afghanistan was ‘not good’ and there was a lack of training, manpower for maintenance and qualified, competent drivers for a variety of vehicles used on patrols.

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